Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats



The main movements of thought during the last half-century
have not been favourable to progress in educational theory. At
the beginning of this period philosophy of any kind was under a
cloud. The elaboration of great systems of thought, compre-
hending all things in heaven and earth in their purview, which
characterized the first decades of the Nineteenth Century and
reappeared belatedly in the Synthetic Philosophy of Spencer, led
to a strong reaction against all forms of speculative thought.
Many of the best thinkers turned as a matter of course from the
ambitious endeavours of philosophy to the more modest tasks of
science^ content with a definite method and an indefinite goal in
the search for truth. This tendency has been further strengthened
by the absorption of a great part of the energy of the European
peoples in the work of adding to and perfecting the material
resources of civilization. In the atmosphere of industrialism the
obvious utility of science and the apparent inutility of philosophy
has helped to concentrate attention on practice rather than on
theory in all spheres of life.

In education this has manifested itself in a not uncommon
impatience with all fundamental inquiries. There, as elsewhere,
the prevailing interest has been in practice rather than in theory,
in the empirical investigation of the facts of child life and of
didactic procedure rather than in the philosophical foundations of
educational belief. Yet since practical work in education can
never wholly dispense with explicit principles of some kind, and
even the unphilosophical practitioner must have a metaphysic
of his own, the age has not been altogether barren in respect
of theory. Three main lines of thought may perhaps be distin-

(a) The groundwork for a great deal of the vital educational
thought of the immediate past has been provided by the principles
and methods of Herbart and Froebel. As commonly happens
when people seek for guidance from the ideas of an earlier genera-
tion, discipleship has inclined to a somewhat feeble imitation of
practices more or less in detachment from the philosophy of life
which first inspired them. Yet the fact that, broadly speaking,
Froebel emphasized the internal factors in education and Herbart
tte external, and that in electing to follow one or the other choice